Frequently Asked Questions

Applications Questions

How many apply?

For Fall 2018 admission we had 283 applicants.

How many are admitted to your program each year?
We usually admit about thirty people each year. Our goal is to have a cohort size of thirteen.
What is the average GRE score of applicants admitted to the program?
Average GRE scores of admitted applicants in 2018 were: Verbal 164 (92%); Quantitative 160 (74%); and Analytical 4.9 (85%) for tests taken after June 2012.
What is the average GPA?
The average undergraduate GPA of admitted applicants in 2018 was 3.76.
What is the cut-off point for GRE scores and GPA?
There is no cut-off point in terms of GRE or GPA scores.  Along with test scores and GPA, the admissions committee will look closely at your statement of purpose, writing sample, transcript, and your letters of recommendation. Before making its admission recommendations to the Dean of the Graduate School, the committee considers carefully all pieces of each applicant’s file. For international students whose native language is not English, the TOEFL is required. You must score at least a 100 or higher on the internet based test (iBT). For the IELTS, you must receive a score of 7.0 or higher.
I am an international student, can I have the English language testing requirement waived?

Yes, TGS does not require English language testing scores from those who have earned an undergraduate, or graduate, degree from an accredited institution where the language of instruction, for the whole institution, is English. Applicants who fulfill this, will have the language testing requirement waived once the application is submitted and as long as a copy of the transcript from that institution is included in the application.

Do you offer an application fee waiver?
Yes, however, the department does not handle this process. Application fee waivers are handled exclusively by TGS and more information about qualifying and the process can be found here.
Where should my IELTS scores be sent?

International applicants who take the IELTS test should have their scores sent directly from IELTS, to the Sociology Department, using the address below. (TOEFL scores must be sent to TGS using school code 1565):

Northwestern University
Department of Sociology
Attn: Admissions Committee
1810 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL 60208

Official scores can be no more than 2 years old from the intended quarter of entry, and an overall minimum score of 7.0 is required.

I will need financial aid. How does that work?
The Graduate School, and Sociology Department, are committed to ensuring all PhD students are financially supported during their education, through a combination of institutional and external funds, for the majority of the time they are registered and working toward their degree.
As part of this, nearly all admitted students are offered a funding package from The Graduate School. The Graduate School funding package consists of 5 full years (20 quarters) of stipend, tuition scholarships and a health insurance subsidy. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for external funding during their first 5 years, which can extend this funding up to 1 additional year (see TGS External Award Policy).
Some of our entering students have received fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Diversifying Faculty in Higher Education Fellowship, the Jacob K. Javits Program, the American Sociological Association, or the Ford Foundation, to name a few.
Minority students should either contact or peruse the website of The Graduate School's office of Diversity and Inclusion for funding opportunities.
I'm interested in getting a Master's …

We do not offer a terminal Master’s Degree program.

I’m interested in an online, or part time program…

We do not offer an online, or part time program, this is a full time PhD program that requires residency at Northwestern University.

I would like a tour or to meet with an admissions officer…
Due to the high volume of applicants we do not offer tours, or meetings with admission officers, prior to admittance to our program. All admitted students are invited to a two day open house where they will meet with faculty and graduate students, visit the campus and see Evanston/Chicago before the April 15th decision deadline.

Applicants with questions should email, and your question will be answered or forwarded to the appropriate person.
Can I apply to start in the winter or spring?
No. All applications must be for fall admission. The application deadline is December 15 of the preceding year.
I have an MA already does the department accept transfer credit?
Yes, on a case by case basis and only after a student is admitted to the program will we assess if a course can count for particular requirement. Students can have a maximum of 6 courses waived from prior graduate level coursework and are still required to fulfill the TGS residency requirement.
I was an econ (English, French, biology, et. al.) major. Can I apply?

Yes. We look for talent, intellectual curiosity and a passion for research, not for a specific type of training. Our cohorts traditionally have diverse academic backgrounds. What they share are current research interests that can be addressed with sociological theories and methods.

I am interested in (fill in the blank) Are any faculty studying that?

Please review the list of faculty interests on our website. In general, the Department’s strengths include sociology of culture, social organization, urban sociology, sociology of law/criminology, social inequalities of all sorts (class, gender, race, sexualities, ethnicity, religion, etc.), and comparative-historical sociology, as explained on the website.

I have interdisciplinary interests. Can I pursue those interests while obtaining my Sociology PhD?

We encourage interdisciplinary work. For some (but not all) areas, this takes place via the Graduate School’s graduate cluster program. For others, it involves working with faculty in different departments and/or affiliating with various centers around campus.

How long does the program typically take?
The Graduate School requires doctoral students to be admitted to candidacy prior to the beginning of the student's fourth year, and to complete the PhD in nine years. Many students complete the PhD in 6 years, but some take an additional 2 to 3 years.

Frequently asked questions after application has been submitted

I took the GRE/TOEFL test on November 15th, or later, and my official scores aren’t ready to be sent to the TGS, what happens?

Your application is considered incomplete and will not be reviewed until these official scores arrive. We strongly encourage applicants to take these tests before November 1st to avoid any issues with test scores arriving by the December 15th deadline.

One of my recommenders told me that they didn’t have to submit their letter of recommendation by the December 15th deadline, is this true?
No, your entire application, with all required material, must be received by the December 15th deadline. Due to the high volume of applications, the review process begins shortly after the deadline. Any materials received after December 15th, may not be reviewed by the admission committee.
When will the department have a decision on my application?
Admission decisions are usually announced in mid to late February. You can check the status of your application via your Activity Page using the same Username and Password you used to create your online application.